19 Italian Dishes Made Cheaper at Home

Preparing Chicken Noodles Soup with Fresh Vegetables


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Preparing Chicken Noodles Soup with Fresh Vegetables


There was a time in the U.S. when Italian food, brought to the country by scores of immigrants, was seen as exotic and unusual. But it's been fully embraced for generations now, with recipes and cooking styles adapting to changing tastes. Pizza and pasta are so ubiquitous that they're thought of as American foods, and are generally a safe bet to please everyone at the dinner table. What's more, many Italian dishes began as "peasant food," so they're made with inexpensive ingredients and can be very cheap to make at home. Whether you're cooking for company or just planning a Sunday sauce, here are some Italian comfort foods that should grace your table.

Related: 51 Best Old-School Italian Restaurants in America

Italian lunch. Spaghetti alla puttanesca - italian pasta dish with tomatoes, olives, capers and parsley. Light background. Copy space.
Olga Mazyarkina/istockphoto

1. Spaghetti Puttanesca

If you normally keep a well-stocked pantry, making spaghetti puttanesca could be a very easy pasta meal for you. The ingredient list isn't long, but it uses things that really pack a punch, like capers, olives, and anchovies, so you have a pop of brininess in every bite. A can of high quality tuna can add protein, if you like.

Recipe: Serious Eats

Related: The Best Costco Pasta Meals to Feed Your Family

Vodka Sauce

2. Penne alla Vodka

Vodka sauce is one of the richest and most garlic-bread-worthy pasta toppers around. The vodka brings out the sweetness and umami of the tomatoes in the same way that makes bloody marys irresistible. Heavy cream and red pepper flakes counter each other nicely, and while the recipe calls for cured pork such as pancetta, you can leave it out for a vegetarian dish.

Recipe: Cooking Classy

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Mozzarella Penne Baked Ziti

3. Baked Ziti

Baked pastas have got to be one of the most comforting meals you can make for your family, and baked ziti is a primo variation. Italian sausage flavors the simple tomato sauce, while pockets of creamy ricotta stud the casserole. Don't skip the broiling step at the end of baking to get the mozzarella cheese nicely browned.

Recipe: Budget Bytes

Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti

4. Easy Chicken Parmesan

This easy chicken Parmesan recipe calls for a jar of your favorite high-quality sauce, like Rao's or Carbone, but you can certainly use homemade if you prefer. Chicken tenderloins ensure the meat stays tender through cooking, and eliminates the step of pounding the chicken. A few pieces of chicken fit perfectly on a hoagie bun for a chicken parm sandwich.

Recipe: Once Upon a Chef

Baked seashels or conchiglie pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese ana spinach, with tomato sauce.
Olga Mazyarkina/istockphoto

5. Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells are less common than lasagna, which makes the dish feel a little more special than its similar cousin. A filling of wilted spinach, ricotta, and other cheeses bakes inside big shells in a simple, homemade red sauce. Use a piping bag to fill the shells, or a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off.

Recipe: Food Network

Dinner with risotto alla milanese
Olga Mazyarkina/istockphoto

6. Risotto alla Milanese

Risotto is a classic Italian comfort food that isn't pasta. The dish is made with short grain rice that's stirred constantly while cooking so that the starch makes the sauce creamy and rich. Saffron gives risotto alla Milanese its trademark gold hue, while it's flavored simply with wine, cheese, and butter.

Recipe: Food & Wine

Diverse Keto Dishes : Bolognese sauce

7. Bolognese Sauce

If you're looking for a no-holds-barred, cooks-all-day bolognese sauce, this recipe is for you. It includes beef, pork, lamb, and pancetta, plus red wine and sage. Like traditional Bolognese, it's not heavy on the tomatoes, instead focusing on the meat. Heavy cream makes it extra luxurious.

Recipe: Serious Eats

Shrimp Spaghetti Pasta on White Background Directly Above Photo

8. Linguine with Shrimp Scampi

A garlic-filled shrimp linguine can be found on the menu of almost every Italian restaurant in the U.S., but it's really fast and easy to make at home. This one has all the classic ingredients like garlic, butter, olive oil, and parsley, but also adds plenty of lemon for freshness — including thin slices, rind and all, that you can eat.

Recipe: Food Network

Delicious beef steak stuffed with parsley and parmesan cheese stewed in tomato sauce close-up. horizontal

9. Beef Braciole

Beef braciole is ideal for company or just Sunday dinner for the family. Think of it as an Italian-style pot roast. Wrap slices of top round around a filling of garlic, breadcrumbs, prosciutto, and cheese, then braise the bundles in a red wine and tomato sauce. You can serve it over pasta, with bread or even polenta.

Recipe: From a Chef's Kitchen

spaghetti and meatballs

10. Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

There's something about Italian-American spaghetti and meatballs that nothing can compare to. Although many cooks have their own version, this is a great recipe to start with if you've never made it before. The milk-soaked bread in the meatballs (that's called a panade) keeps them moist while they cook and flavor the simple tomato basil sauce.

Recipe: Jo Cooks

One Pot Chicken Alfredo Pasta Directly Above Photo

11. Fettuccine Alfredo

If you're looking for a project meal, making your own pasta will easily fill up an afternoon with all kinds of fun — plus you get to reap the delicious reward at the end. Ravioli are not as finicky to make as some pastas, but make sure to seal the edges to keep the three-cheese filling inside. This recipe includes a video on making the pasta, plus a tomato sauce that will complement your pasta pillows well.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Italian Sausage Minestrone Soup

12. Classic Minestrone Soup

You'll forget all about Olive Garden once you make your own minestrone soup at home. This recipe is full of herbs, beans, and vegetables, and it's the perfect way to use up whatever is in your crisper drawer. If you have the rind of a piece of Parmesan cheese, throw it in to give the broth some extra flavor.

Recipe: Cookie and Kate

sausage peppers and onion sub with sauce

13. Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Skip the hot dogs or brats during your next party and try Italian sausages cooked with peppers and onions instead. Marsala wine adds a twist to the tomato sauce they're cooked in, making this version feel a bit fancier than most. A big handful of fresh basil brightens up the hoagies.

Recipe: Food Network

Italian food: pasta carbonara on the table. horizontal top view

14. Spaghetti Carbonara

Carbonara is a classic, but so many recipes overcomplicate things. Skip the cream and make the dish rich and creamy the traditional way with a silky sauce of egg yolks and cheese. Mixing the pasta with the sauce off the heat ensures you won't scramble the eggs. Guanciale or pancetta is best, but we all know bacon can't hurt, either.

Recipe: Serious Eats

Chicken Lombardy Linguine Pasta

15. Chicken Marsala

Though it seems fancy enough for company or a special occasion, chicken Marsala is pretty simple to make, it just takes a little time. Cooking the mushrooms first ensures you get them nicely browned, and using more Marsala than stock in the sauce ensures you'll actually taste the wine. A splash of balsamic at the end brightens the dish’s flavors.

Recipe: David Lebovitz

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

16. Shrimp Fra Diavolo

If you love shrimp but you're sick of shrimp scampi, try fra diavolo instead. It's shrimp cooked in a spicy sauce, and this version is light because it uses canned diced tomatoes instead of a heavy tomato puree. You can toss the finished dish with pasta, but it's really good with some crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.

Recipe: Food Network

Traditional lasagna made with minced beef bolognese sauce

17. World's Best Lasagna

With more than 20,000 ratings and 4.8 stars out of 5, this lasagna recipe is arguably the most popular on the internet. It's a classic Italian-American version with sausage- and ground beef-heavy sauce and plenty of ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. If you're new to lasagna baking, this recipe is a good place to start.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Homemade Baked Chicken Vesuvio

18. Chicken Vesuvio

Chicken Vesuvio is a staple at Chicago Italian restaurants. It's a great comfort food dish to make at home because it's a one-pot meal that everyone will love. Bone-in chicken parts are seared and roasted with wedges of potatoes in a white wine, garlic, oregano, and lemon sauce. A few handfuls of frozen peas make it a complete meal in a skillet.

Recipe: Food Network

Square Crust Flatbread Pizza

19. Grandma Pizza

Not only is pizza an Italian comfort food, it's probably the most popular comfort food in the U.S. Making your own version is not as difficult as you might think, especially if you make a grandma-style pie like this. It's got a thick, yeasted crust that's baked in a square pan and topped simply with tomato sauce and cheese. It's delicious in its simplicity, but you can add whatever toppings you like.

Recipe: King Arthur Baking

Related: America's Strangest Pizzas